Maybe it’s the heat talking, but we think Lucy Gojich does one of the most important things in the world: makes and sells ice cream. She was kind enough to show us how math is sprinkled throughout her ice cream shop 24/7, from Monday to Sundae.
What made you open an ice cream shop? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I’m not sure that I always wanted to open an ice cream shop, but I have always enjoyed ice cream. Running my own business was something I thought about a lot when I was a kid, so I feel lucky to be able to do that as a grown-up.
What do you love about owning an ice cream shop?
What’s not to love? There’s the sweet stuff, obviously, but I also have a great team of employees who I love to work with. I get to speak to smiling customers every day. And I like all the planning of running the business, and getting to try new ideas – and flavors!
What kind of math do you use every day?
There are so many different ways I use math. For example, I’m always calculating our sales. Besides knowing how much money we made, counting the number of customers we have on one Tuesday afternoon helps me predict how many employees we need to serve customers on the next Tuesday afternoon. Then there’s the puzzle of how to fit all my employees into the schedule and give them enough hours when they have band practice, family vacations, and other activities – as any parent knows, that can require a lot of juggling to “find the time.”
So numbers help you plan ahead and keep the ice cream coming?
Sure, I’d say I make a lot of very educated guesses. Our sales numbers are also useful when it comes to re-ordering inventory – say we sold 30 gallons worth of chocolate ice cream 1 week, 35 the next, and 40 after that. I would plan for that pattern to continue, to a point. Ice cream can go bad just like milk, especially since we use liquid cream to make soft-serve, so it’s important to order as precisely as possible. Ice cream’s popularity is obviously affected by the seasons, so I also use the data from previous years to know when to expect a spike or drop in customers.
And what about the product – what are the numbers behind soft-serve ice cream?
Well, temperature is obviously very important, but what people may not know is that soft-serve has air mixed into it – that’s why it’s soft! We can adjust how much air is being pumped into the ice cream as it’s made, which will change how the soft-serve tastes. If there’s too little air the ice cream will be more icy than creamy, but if there’s too much it can lose its texture and melt more quickly. The best tasting soft-serve usually is about 40% air, though some people like it more dense and some prefer it lighter. So we always measure everything carefully – we double-check the percentage of air by weighing a certain volume of ice cream. And we try to have 1 machine making denser soft-serve and the other doing a fluffier ice cream.
So if a kid wants to grow up to own an ice cream shop, what sort of math should they learn?
All of it! Math is a lifeline for anyone running a store – it can help you avoid mistakes and bounce back from them too. There’s multiplication and division in knowing how much soft-serve can be made from 1 gallon of liquid cream, and how many customers that gallon can serve if ¼ of them want the denser ice cream and the rest want the lighter kind. There’s time, temperature, volume, weight, and all sorts of other measurements – even electricity and planning circuits for giant freezers. And I haven’t even talked about pricing and making change for customers! There’s no limit to the flavors of math I get to use at my store.